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Basque Country

Basque Country

Basque Country

Basque Country (Basque: “Euskadi”) is a region in Spain and France.
The four Spanish provinces of the area are also called Hegoalde. Three of these provinces, Álava, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa, form the Basque Autonomous Region, one of the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain.

 

The autonomous region is also often referred to as the “Basque Country,” which can confuse. In this article, we focus on the Autonomous Region of the Basque Country. We do not include the French Basque Country and the fourth province, the neighbouring Autonomous Foral Community of Navarre.

 

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Guggenheim in Bilbao

You will find Basque Country on the Bay of Biscay, among the western foothills of the Pyrenees. The largest and most famous city is Bilbao, with the famous Guggenheim museum, but the capital of the autonomous region is Vitoria-Gasteiz in Álava. In total, just over 2 million people live in the area. When you are used to other destinations in Spain, you will soon notice that the Basque Country has its own culture. It also has a language, Euskera (Basque), which is still actively spoken by about a quarter of the Basques.

 

During the Franco regime, the Spanish authority suppressed the autonomy of the Basques, which led to the creation of the armed secession movement Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). These extreme nationalists tried to enforce the independence of the Basque Country through terrorist attacks. Under King Juan Carlos, the Basques regained their original autonomy. Although many Basques would still like to separate themselves from Spain, ETA has renounced violence since 2011. Today, the region is just as safe as the rest of the country. No reason anymore to avoid this beautiful part of Spain!

Highlights of the region are the hip, atmospheric cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian. In these beautiful old towns, you will find countless bars where you can get traditional “pintxos” (Basque tapas). Bilbao is, next to the Guggenheim, worth the Mercado de la Ribera alone, the large covered market hall where you can find almost everything you can imagine.

The bay of La Concha

San Sebastian is famous because of its beautiful seaside location and pleasant climate. It is colder than in the more southern cities, which makes it a perfect spot for a city trip. Beautiful houses, cosy restaurants, and the most beautiful city beach in Europe, La Concha, make San Sebastian more than worthwhile.

The famous Concha bay at sunset with the city of San Sebastian on the left.

El Bosque Pintado de Oma

Do you like nature more? Even then you are in the right place in the Basque Country! Here you will find El Bosque Pintado de Oma, also known as the painted forest. All trees are decorated in this forest so that you walk into a living work of art. It is an art project by the Basque sculptor and painter Augustin Ibarrola.

Close to the forest, you will also find the caves of Santimamiñe, with ancient cave paintings. In addition to the painted wood, the Basque Country has seven nature reserves that are each worth a visit. Consider rugged cliffs, forested mountains, and open plains. In the middle of this impressive nature, you will find traditional villages where time seems to have stood still.

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